Christianity quite often comes in for a lot of stick as being some kind of ‘crutch’ – Marx’s ‘opiate of the masses’. And often quite rightly so – it’d be pretty tricky to argue that the overwhelming support for Bush Jnr by US christians, despite his representing just about nothing of the qualities historically recognised as those of followers of Jesus suggests that somewhere along the lines, the critical faculties of large sections of the American Church have been squashed and replaced by a desire to hear someone say the right things, namecheck the right deity and thus gain the right to bomb anyone, sanction torture, crap on the poor, bolster the opulence and bloated wealth of the super-rich and reduce corporate responsibility for the welfare of those they employ. I don’t think it’d be considered a radical view point at pretty much any other time or place in the history of the church for those things to be considered profoundly anti-christian. While the powerful within the church have abused their position for centuries, the widespread support of such an abuse of power seems largely unprecedented on this scale…

Anyway, every now and again, along comes someone who takes jesus’ challenge to live radically seriously. One such person in the news of late is Gee Walker, the mother of Anthony Walker, the young black guy brutally murdered in a racist attack in Liverpool. His killers have just gone to jail, and Anthony’s mother has been all over the news, her pain visible on her face but deeper than any of us can imagine who’ve never been through such a thing.

Her words about forgiveness have been mind-blowing. Not flippant or overly-religious, certainly not an easy crutch… calling for the death penalty would surely be the obvious emotive response to such a situation… I know that my instinctive reaction to such brutality and evil isn’t to look for ways to forgive.

Is she just kidding herself? Is it possible to forgive? I dunno, I’ve never been in that situation, never been in the position where it’s been in my power to forgive something so heinous. But Gee Walker saw the challenge of Jesus extending forgiveness to everyone as a way of seeing the world. Not looking for vengeance or death, but looking to forgive.

Here are some thoughts by John Sentamu on Gee’s forgiveness – he’s the new Archbishop of York, who was beaten to shit by Robert Mugabi’s henchmen in Zimbabwe, has faced racism, and continues to face racism in the UK, and yet follows this model of radical forgiveness.

Meanwhile, Dubya is telling us that God told him to invade Iraq, and I’m just reminded of Peter Sutcliffe tell the Yorkshire police that God was telling him to murder prostitutes…

It’s scary that religious belief can be such an agent of change and an agent of manipulation and destruction. that in itself is a huge challenge to those of us who claim some kind of religious affiliation to question everything, to expose the darkness in our own hearts, and in the mechanisms of the church or whichever faith we adhere to. To cover it up leaves us in the disastrous mess the Catholic church are in over paedophile priests, where instead of turning them over to the police and supporting the abused children in bringing prosecutions, and building in safe-guards to make sure it never happens again, they just moved them to a new parish and allowed it to happen again. Unthinkable.

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